Mon, Dec 06, 2004 - Page 2 News List

China's envoy to Vanuatu says Vohor punched him

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AFP

Vanuatu's Prime Minister Serge Vohor was accused yesterday of assaulting the Chinese ambassador during a row over his recognition of Taiwan, for which he is facing a no-confidence vote.

Beijing's newly installed envoy to Port Vila, Bao Shusheng (鮑樹生), said he was punched on the shoulder by Vohor when he sought to complain that the flag of Taiwan was still flying in the capital after it was supposed to have been taken down after a ruling by the council of ministers.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday Taiwanese diplomats in Vanuatu have heard about the episode between Vohor and Bao, but he declined to comment on it.

A decision of opposition MPs -- now in the majority after recent defections -- to pass a no-confidence motion to oust Vohor has stalled in the South Pacific island nation's Supreme Court, which is due to give a ruling today about whether the vote can proceed.

However, opposition MPs say they are confident of winning the court's backing for the vote of no confidence which may come as early as today.

The row started when Vohor made a secret visit last month to Taipei where he signed a communique recognizing Taiwan.

Bao said he was shocked by the incident, but decided not to make a formal complaint to police about it, although it has been well publicized in Port Vila.

He told an AFP correspondent he went to parliament to see Vohor to ask him why the Taiwanese flag was flying at Le Meridien Hotel where a Taiwanese politician was in residence.

"I stood in the corridor where he totally ignored me then brushed straight passed me," Bao said.

"I then approached him just outside of parliament where I waited for him again at the main entrance. He then shook his fist right in my face and punched me on my right shoulder.

"I was shocked at what happened, but his bodyguards stepped in and the prime minister then rushed to his car. This has deeply offended me and my country."

Parliamentary speaker and Vohor ally Josias Moli last week blocked an opposition bid to oust Vohor following the defection of 16 of the 52 MPs from the government side to give the opposition a majority of 36 to 14, excluding the PM and speaker.

Moli cited a newly passed constitutional amendment giving governments a 12-month grace period and restricting the rights of MPs to change allegiance mid-term.

But the opposition says the amendment is not yet in force. The Supreme Court said Saturday it would give its ruling today.

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